Friday, May 29, 2015

Probably the Single Coolest Science Fiction Book of the Year


You've probably already heard of The Three-Body Problem.  When I tried to order a copy at Big Blue Marble, the friendly independent bookstore in Chestnut Hill, they told me their distributor had sold every copy they had.  Then, when I called Tor to ask for a copy, my editor friend there, sounding extremely happy, told me that the book was "flying off the shelves." And of course it's currently on the Nebula and Hugo ballots.  So it's not exactly obscure.

Nevertheless, I feel compelled to add a few quiet words of praise for Cixin Liu's novel, the first of a trilogy that's a best-seller in China, ably translated by American writer Ken Liu, just because it's so damnably cool.

Here's the basic premise: In a near-future China, top-level physicists are committing suicide in alarming numbers. Experimental data, it turns out, are no longer consistent. Experiments yield different results every time they are run. Physics is no longer reproducible. As a crusty old cop observes, when things get this strange, there's usually somebody making it happen.

There's a lot to like about this book: the culture and history of China, to begin with. (Did you know that it's perfectly okay now to openly criticize the Cultural Revolution?) The heavy emphasis on science for another. (An engineer of my acquaintance did grumble that there was a lot of hand-waving; but he liked the book anyway.)

Its weaknesses? It's a little old-fashioned structurally, with a great deal of characters delivering lectures on science to one another. But that's undoubtedly part of the reason for its popularity. The prose is functional, rather than beautiful. But that's a good part of the reason why it got translated in the first place..

Mostly, though, I love this book because it contains ideas that I hadn't seen before. Larry Niven's Ringworld, you'll remember, had kind of a ramshackle plot where the characters land on the eponymous artifact, wander about for a bit, and then leave. But the brilliance of the central idea made it a landmark in science fiction.  The Three-Body Problem has that same virtue: original ideas.

Recommended for everyone. New writers in particular.


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Tanith Lee, Sorceress


I have just now heard from a reliable source that Tanith Lee has died. This is terrible news for lovers of fantasy. Her prose was elegant, sensuous, a delight to read. There really was no other writer like her.

I never met Ms Lee, so I have no stories about her to share.  So instead, I'll give you the section of my essay, "In the Tradition..." dealing with her work:

If there is one commonality among the hard fantasists, it is that they are not a prolific lot.  Tanith Lee, however, is prolific.  Which makes it hard to single out one work for examination.  A survey of her oeuvre would necessitate the exclusion of other writers.  Nor can she simply be skipped over.  She is a Power, and has earned her place here.

I've chosen to focus on Lee's Arkham House collection Dreams of Dark and Light not only in the name of ruthless simplification but also because it is a rare thing for a hard fantasist to work much in short fiction (novels being the preferred length of eccentricity, and eccentricity being the name of the game) and rarer still for one individual to excel at both lengths.

Here's a quick sampler of what happens in Dreams of Dark and Light:  A selkie beds a seal-hunter in trade for the pelt of her murdered son.  The dying servant of an aged vampire procures for her a new lover.  A writer becomes obsessed with a masked woman who may or may not be a gorgon.  A young woman rejects comfort, luxury, and the fulfillment of her childhood dreams, for a demon lover.  These are specifically adult fictions.

There is more to these stories than the sexual impulse.  But I mention its presence because its treatment is never titillating, smirking, or borderline pornographic, as is so much fiction that purports to be erotic.  Rather, it is elegant, languorous, and feverish by turns, and always tinged with danger.  Which is to say that it is remarkably like the writing itself.

In "Elle Est Trois (La Morte)" three artists--a poet, a painter, a composer--are visited by avatars of Lady Death.  The suicidal allure of la vie boheme, with its confusion of death, sex, poverty and the muse, has rarely been so well conveyed as here.  The artists are captured as their essences, each courting death in his own way.  The composer France unwittingly acknowledges this when he tells his friend Etiens Saint-Beuve, "One day such sketches will be worth sheafs of francs, boxes full of American dollars.  When you are safely dead, Etiens, in a pauper's grave."

After France himself has been taken, the poet Armand Valier muses on Death's avatars (the Butcher, the Thief, the Seducer) in Lee's sorcerous prose:

. . . And then the third means to destruction, the
seductive death who visited poets in her irresistible
caressing silence, with the petals of blue flowers or
the blue wings of insects pasted on the lids of her
eyes, and: See, your flesh also, taken to mine, can
never decay.  And this will be true, for the flesh of
Armand, becoming paper written over by words, will endure
as long as men can read.
    And so he left the window.  He prepared, carefully,
the opium that would melt away within him the iron barrier
that no longer yielded to thought or solitude or wine.  And
when the drug began to live within its glass, for an instant
he thought he saw a drowned girl floating there, her hair
swirling in the smoke. . . . Far away, in another
universe, the clock of Notre Dame aux Lumineres struck

This is the apotheosis of romantic decadence--sex, drugs, and death mixed into a single potent cocktail.  But, lest the reader suspect her of indulging in mere literary nostalgia, Lee notes in passing that "the poet would have presented this history quite differently," by introducing a unifying device, such as a cursed ring.  This sly contrasting of the story's sinuous structure with the clanking apparati of its Gothic ancestors, does more than just establish that the fiction is an improvement on antique forms.  It hints (no more) that the real horror, the real beauty, the real significance of the story, is that death is universal.  She is a true democrat, an unselective lover who sooner or later comes for all, aware of her or not, the reader no less than the author.

Once upon a time the Romantics elevated the emotions above reason, sought the sublime in the supernatural and the medieval, and elevated the equation of sex and death to cult status.  Following generations took their machinery and put it to lesser ends, much as the forms of magic were taken over by performers of sleight-of-hand.  They could do no better, for they had lost the original vision.

Lee's work is a return to sources and a rejuvenation of that original vision.  It is the higher passions that matter.  Viktor, the bored aristocrat in "Dark as Ink" is too wise to pursue his obsessions, and for this sin suffers a meaningless life and early death.  But the eponymous heroine of "La Reine Blanche" finds redemption despite her singular regicide and unwitting betrayal of her fated love because she has stayed true to her passions.  An erotic spirituality shimmers like foxfire from the living surfaces of this book.

By some readings (though not mine) these works could be classified as horror.  There has long been a midnight trade between the genres, ridge-runners and embargo-breakers smuggling influences both ways across the borders.  It's illegal, we are all agreed, but is it wrong?  No one would dare attempt to expel the late Fritz Leiber from the Empire of the Fantastic.  Yet he readily admitted that nearly all his work was, at heart, horror.  Even his Fafhrd and Gray Mouser stories, though disguised by ambiguously upbeat endings and the wit and charisma of their heroes, exist in an almost Lovecraftian horror-fiction universe.  In the end, the only question that matters is whether the work suits our purposes or not.

"As I supposed," says a raven in one of these tales, "your story is sad, sinister, and interesting."  Exactly so.  There are twenty-three stories in this volume, and I recommend them all.

Copyright 1994 by Michael Swanwick. Probably the best way to memorialize Tanith Lee would be by reading one of her books.


Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day


Every year on Memorial Day, my father put on his American Legion cap and went to Memorial Day services. I remember them as always being held in cemeteries. Marianne's father, who also served in WWII, never missed a one either.

So when Marianne and I moved to Roxborough, we we careful to always show up on Memorial Day.

Back in the late Seventies and early Eighties, there wasn't much of a turnout at Gorgas Park. The Vietnam War was still fresh in people's memories.  Some skipped the ceremonies because they thought we shouldn't have been in the war. Others because they thought that we should have won it.

Both missed the point. The dead are beyond politics.  Those who served with them show up to remember the fallen and to honor their sacrifice.  You don't have to support the particular war they served in to feel the solemnity of their loss.

National moods shift.  In 2002, there was a huge turnout and some of those who were showing up for the first time were in a jingoistic mood.  I remember one woman tried to start a chant of "U.S.A! U.S.A.!" The vet who was speaking gently cut her off.  "How sweet those words are," he said, and went back to his eulogy.  Because it wasn't a day for flag-waving but a day for remembrance.

There are lot more memorial services within walking distance today than there were back then. The big one is still in Gorgas Park. But we go to a smaller one in Leverington Cemetery.  There is a memorial there to the Virginians who were massacred by British soldiers a few blocks down Ridge Avenue, a marble monument erected by the family of a nurse who died while tending to the wounded in the Civil War, stones with the names of regiments illegible from a century and a half of rain... It is a reminder of what a terrible thing history can be.

It is such a little thing to show up for a brief ceremony one day out of the year. But when it's all you can, you pretty much have no choice.


Friday, May 22, 2015

Alternate Waldrops


Why did nobody tell me about this?  For two dozen years and two it's been sitting there and yet I had no idea there was such a thing as Eileen Gunn's Alternate Waldrops. Howard Waldrops, that is.

Why isn't there an Alternate Howard Waldrops Day?  Why isn't it a national holiday?  And what's wrong with the rest of the world?  It's practically a national holiday here.  So -- what? -- France is too good for Howard Waldrop?  Is that even possible?

You can read the piece here.

For yet another Alternate Waldrop, you can read my and Gregory Frost's absolutely brilliant "Lock Up Your Chickens and Daughters -- H'ard and Andy Are Come to Town!" It appeared in Asimov's recently, and one of us is sure to include it in a collection someday.  But in the meantime, you can read the story here.

Above: I swiped this great photo of Howard and Eileen from Lawrence Person's website. If you can't steal things from a friend who can you steal them from?


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Tao of Terry Carr


It is the common lot of even the best editors to be forgotten. There are exceptions, but they are few and far in between. Probably the best forgotten editor I ever knew was Terry Carr.  He bought my first novel for a revival of the Ace Specials line, a short but prestigious selection that included the first novels of Kim Stanley Robinson, Lucius Shepard, Howard Waldrop and an obscurity  by the name of William Gibson. What an eye for talent the man had!

Recently I received the second volume of Feast of Laughter, an R. A. Lafferty bookzine, which I'll try to do credit to just as soon as I can find the time.  Among many other gems, it contains a reprint of an interview that Tom Jackson did of Lafferty back in 1991.  When asked what influence Terry had on Lafferty's work, Lafferty replied as follows:

Terry Carr taught me that a story must begin with a bang. As a consequence the first book of mine he edited and published, Past Master, had in its first paragraph:

[...] There was a clattering thunder in the street outside. [...] the clashing thunder of mechanical killers, raving and ravaging. They shook the building and were on the verge of pulling it down. They required the life and blood of one of the three men [...} now [...] within the minute.

Well, maybe all stories don't have to begin with a bang, but all Terry Carr stories had to begin with a bang of some sort. Terry also told me that 'You can lose a reader, completely and forever, in fifteen seconds. Never leave him even a fifteen-second interval without a hook to jerk him back.' Anything else Terry told me is contained in those two very good pieces of advice.

Which is every word of it God's own truth. If you doubt me, go back and reread A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, say, or À la recherche du temps perdu. You'll see.


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

When Lafferty Insulted Harlan


Raymond Aloysius Lafferty put his wrinkled hand on my left forearm and said to me, "Ellison... you are the imp of Satan."

Ever wondered what it would take to insult Harlan Ellison with impunity? We are, after all, talking about a man who is a master of vituperation, someone famously disinclined to suffer fools gladly, a fellow who, as all the old gaffers and geezers at Stratford-on-Avon agreed when asked about the character of the late, sainted Bill Shakespeare, might best be characterized as "a fast man with a comeback." There are many, many stories in the collective folklore of Fandom about people who by word or act raised up his wrath against them -- too many, perhaps, for they tend to obscure the very real brilliance of his fiction -- and with the exception of two or three that smell suspiciously like repurposed urban legends to me, Harlan comes off second in none of them.

But first, I should explain that the above italicized sentence is the opening of Ellison's introduction to the second volume of the collected stories of R. A. Lafferty, a beautiful and pricey tome which y-hight The Man with the Aura, published with (I am certain) justifiable pride by Centipede Press. So you don't have to take my word for it that Lafferty offered deathly insult to someone whose many talents include a particular talent for the discursive essay. Of which the introduction in question is an excellent example.

So am I ready to explain the second sentence of this essay -- my first, after Ellison's -- yet? No. For there must be a word or two about Lafferty himself, the forgotten giant from Tulsa, Oklahoma. Lafferty wrote like no one ever did before him, and though attempts to pastiche his style were plenteous back in the day, to my ear not a one of them truly succeeded. He came to prominence during the New Wave days, which was ironic for he was a hidebound conservative and mossbacked reactionary in all the ways that sub specie aeternitatis are of no importance at all. He faded to all but nothing (in terms of literary visibility) two decades later.

But in the early 1970s, all the writers you admire most thought he was the cat's pajamas. If I tried to explain why, we'd be here all day and still I'd be no closer to the horizon than I was when we started it. Let's just say he was the single most original writer science fiction has ever seen. This and five bucks, as they say, will get you a grande mochaccino at Starbucks, the sprinkle of cinnamon optional. When the gentlemanly business of publishing was bought up by multinationals and computerized, it was discovered that while Lafferty was beloved of God and the literati, to the masses he was tref. Nothing. He simply didn't have the numbers.

But at the time he insulted Ellison, Lafferty was at the height of his prestige. Not that that mattered. To those who care, really care about words, sales figures are nothing. All that matters is the art. And Lafferty had art coming out the yingyang.

I'm not going to give away the conclusion of Ellison's intro. He put a lot into it, buyers of this book are going to want to read it with pleasure and no spoilers, and I'm not about to step on his punchline.  But I don't think it gives anything away to say that if you want to insult Harland Ellison and get away with it, it's the simplest thing in the world:

You just need to have earned enough of his respect to pull it off.

The uncommonly well-made book was issued in an edition of 300 and costs $45. Those who need this book know who they are. They, and the merely curious, can find Centipede's page on it here

Above: Was I trying to pull off an imitation of Harlan Ellison's famously inimitable style here? No, I was not. But I was trying my hand at the discursive essay. This stuff is harder to pull of than it looks -- and I never for a moment thought it looked easy at all.


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Another Book You Need to Buy


I'm in reprint again! Jonathan Strahan's latest, The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year: Vol 9 is fresh on the stands. And it contains... wait a second, I really do have to look it up... my own "Tawny Petticoats."  This is the Darger & Surplus adventure originally published in George R. R. Martin's and Gardner Dozois' rather splendid anthology Rogues.  It chronicles the two scoundrels' brief but eventful stay in New Orleans, a period during which they took on a third partner.

Here, in alphabetical order, are the contents:

1. “Tough Times All Over”, Joe Abercrombie
2. “The Scrivener”, Eleanor Arnason
3. “Moriabe’s Children”, Paolo Bacigalupi
4. “Covenant”, Elizabeth Bear
5. “Slipping”, Lauren Beukes
6. “Ten Rules for Being an Intergalactic Smuggler (The Successful Kind)”, Holly Black
7. “Shadow Flock”, Greg Egan
8. “The Truth About Owls”, Amal El-Mohtar
9. “Cimmeria: From the Journal of Imaginary Anthropology”, Theodora Goss
10. “Cold Wind”, Nicola Griffith
11. “Someday”, James Patrick Kelly
12. “Interstate Love Song (Murder Ballad No.8)”, Caitlin R Kiernan
13. “Mothers, Lock Up Your Daughters Because They are Terrifying”, Alice Sola Kim
14. “Amicae Aeternum”, Ellen Klages
15. “Calligo Lane”, Ellen Klages
16. “The Lady and the Fox”, Kelly Link
17. “The Long Haul From the ANNALS OF TRANSPORTATION”, The Pacific Monthly, May 2009”, Ken Liu
18. “The Vaporization Enthalpy of a Peculiar Pakistani Family”, Usman T Mailk
19. “Four Days of Christmas”, Tim Maughan
20. “The Fifth Dragon”, Ian McDonald
21. “Shay Corsham Worsted”, Garth Nix
22. “I Met a Man Who Wasn’t There”, K. J. Parker
23. “Kheldyu”, Karl Schroeder
24. “Tawny Petticoats”, Michael Swanwick
25. “Grand Jeté (The Great Leap)”, Rachel Swirsky
26. “The Insects of Love”, Genevieve Valentine
27. “Collateral”, Peter Watts
28. “The Devil in America”, Kai Ashante Wilson 

Which I feel is sufficient reason for you to buy the book.

Remember:  If at all possible, you should do so at an independent bookstore.  The big chains do not hold readers or authors in high esteem.  And don't get me started on Amazon.


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

A Brief Note to Young Writers of Science Fiction


Children, this is what science fiction used to look like.  This is what it used to sound like.  This was all a long, long time ago.

Your task is twofold:

1. You must write something as powerful as this.

2.  You must write something much better than this.

With love,
Unca Mike

P. S. Keep it new, y'all!


Monday, May 11, 2015

Let Me Write A Story About YOU...


As the Indiegogo funding campaign for Stories For Chip moves into its last days, editors Nisi Shawl and Bill Campbell have unveiled more rewards for the well-heeled, including three bespoke short-short stories (or flash fictions, as they're called nowadays) written by me.

I'll explain what a bespoke story is in just a second.  First, a little background:

Stories For Chip is a festschrift (a book of writings honoring a worthy individual while that person is still alive) celebrating the life and works of Samuel R. Delany, who commonly goes by the nickname "Chip."  Chip is one of the best and most influential writers in the history of science fiction.  He's also cut quite a swath in the circles of criticism and gay pornography.  Anyone reading this blog probably knows quite a bit about the man.

Despite the title, the book contains a mixture of fiction and non-fiction.  My own contribution is an essay titled, "On My First Reading of The Einstein Intersection."  I also appear as a character in a reprint of Eileen Gunn's semitrue metafictional "Michael Swanwick and Samuel R. Delany at the Joyce Kilmer Service Area, March 2005." Here, in near-alphabetical order are all the other pieces:

Introduction by Kim Stanley RobinsonChristopher Brown – Festival
Chesya Burke – For Sale: Fantasy Coffin
Roz Clarke – Haunt-type Experience
Kathryn Cramer – Characters in the Margins of a Lost Notebook
Vincent Czyz – Hamlet’s Ghost Sighted in Frontenac, KS
Junot Díaz – Nilda
Geetanjali Dighe – The Last Dying Man
Timmel Duchamp – Real Mothers, a Faggot Uncle, and the Name of the Father: Samuel R. Delany’s Feminist Revisions of the Story of SF
Hal Duncan – An Idyll in Erewhyna
Fabio Fernandes – Eleven Stations
Jewelle Gomez – Be Three
Eileen Gunn – Michael Swanwick and Samuel R. Delany at the Joyce Kilmer Service Area, March 2005
Nick Harkaway – Billy Tumult
Ernest Hogan – Guerilla Mural of a Siren’s Song
Nalo Hopkinson & Nisi Shawl – Jamaica Ginger
Walidah Imarisha – Walking Science Fiction: Samuel Delany and Visionary Fiction
Alex Jennings – Heart of Brass
Tenea D. Johnson – Each Star a Sun to Invisible Planets
Ellen Kushner – Delany Story
Claude Lalumiere – Empathy Evolving as a Quantum of Eight-Dimensional Perception
Isiah Lavender – Delany Encounters
devorah major – Voice Prints
Haralambi Markov – Holding Hands with Monsters
Anil Menon – Clarity
Carmelo Rafala – Song for the Asking
Kit Reed – Kickenders
Benjamin Rosenbaum – The First Gate of Logic
Geoff Ryman – Capitalism in the 22nd Century
Alex Smith – Clones
Sheree Renee Thomas – River Clap Your Hands
Kai Ashante Wilson – Legendaire

So... bespoke fiction.  Like bespoke shirts, bespoke fiction is custom-made to fit you. I've contributed up to three stories of roughly 500 words length, certainly no more than a thousand, based on information that the buyer provides about himself, herself, or a loved one.  The buyer gets the original typescript, signed and dated by me.  And I'll throw in the right to post it on your Web page, copy it into your Christmas letter, write it on the side of your barn -- and/or any other non-commercial use that may occur to you.

It's kind of like a Tuckerization, except without all the parts of the story that have nothing to do with You.

These are, I should mention, pricey little things.  They're going for two hundred dollars a pop.  But the money is going toward the creation of a book I devoutly wish to read, so I think it's all in a good cause.

You can find the site, order a copy of the book, maybe go for one of the many special donor perks here.


Friday, May 8, 2015

A Greenhouse on Mars


So early yesterday, I took the train to D. C. for a SIGMA panel at the 2015 Humans to Mars Summit.  The subject of the panel was what science fiction can do to promote the colonization of our sister planet. My fellow pundits were Catherine Asaro (moderator), Tom Ligon, Geoff Landis, and Mary Turzillo. You can judge how good a job we did, if you wish, by viewing the video above.

What I remember about my own words is how fundamentally optimistic I was.  Asked for a justification for the colonization of Mars, I said that we didn't need one.  I'd just returned from China which is still undergoing explosive growth, in the wake of which they created an ambitious space program. So far as I can tell, they never bothered to come up with a reason why.  Great nations do great things.  So of course they want to take the lead in space.

Two thoughts I had on the subject which the panel had no room for, however, were:

Any reimagining of the colonization of Mars will have to start with the people. So it's a pity that it seems unlikely that anybody thought to run a study of the volunteers for the Mars One project.  Some of them never expected to go and merely signed up to get a closer look at something they found interesting. But there were a lot who really did hope to live the rest of their lives on another planet. Who were they? What did they want? What expectations did they have?

One thing I know is that they're going to live lives of very expensive poverty. For a very long time they will be unable to manufacture things like surgical instruments, birth control devices, guitar strings... the list goes on forever. All of which will be extraordinarily expensive to ship from one planet to another. I expect they'll make a lot of their own entertainment: Sing-alongs, amateur theatrics, and the like.

I expect the first Martian export will be poetry.

I want to see a greenhouse on Mars.  If a colony is going to succeed, they'll have to grow their own food. It'll be heavy on vegetables at first. And it would help if there were extensive greenhouses in production by the time the colonists arrive.

Sooner or later NASA is going to have to run an experiment on Mars to see if a robot-assembled, remotely-tended greenhouse can raise viable crops on Martian regolith. When they do, it will be as good a means of promoting the exploration and colonization of the Red Planet as the rovers have been.  I hope that in addition to the crops, they think to plant a small rosebush.

I want to be watching the camera footage when the first rose blossoms on another planet.

And afterward...

Catherine suggested we all go out to lunch together. Which made it ironic that somehow we managed to lose her before we did so.  But we picked up Rosemary Smith, who very sensibly was at the summit to learn all she could on the subject, so we had a full quorum for some very lively conversation.

Geoff Landis, ever the engineer, pointed out that it would be every bit as informative and a lot cheaper to put a greenhouse on the Moon.  Point taken.


Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Hunting the Phoenix


Here's something I would have sworn would not and would not occur in this universe.  Dragonstairs Press, which is my wife Marianne Porter's self-styled "nanopress," has just published an art book. By, of all people, me.

A little background first.  Dragonstairs is not, as many people have reasonably assumed, my own vanity press.  It was created and is run entirely by Marianne.  Nor is it a hobby.  In large part because Marianne creates small-run, limited edition chapbooks, it's been a profit-making concern from the beginning. Her creations sell out quickly.

Marianne does have an advantage over most small-press publishers of having an author living in the same house whom she can direct to write something for her.  As she did with Tumbling, a Lizzie O'Brien story written specifically because she had learned how to fold and cut a single sheet of paper into a small booklet and wanted something appropriate for it.  Or as she did with the upcoming Universe Box, which... well, I'll let that be a surprise.  But it's an extremely cool project.

The important thing to know here is that these projects arise in Marianne's brain. Hunting the Phoenix is an idea that I doubt would ever have occurred to me.

So what is Hunting the Phoenix?

You may recall that I have a novel coming out on August 1 from Tor Books.  It's called Chasing the Phoenix and it's the second novel chronicling the adventures of Darger & Surplus, Postutopian con men extraordinaire.  As I was writing the book, I used an iPad drawing app to make sketches of some of the characters and situations that were coming up. It was one of many means I used to coax my subconscious into giving up its treasures.

Marianne has taken those pictures and made of them a booklet.  It's called Hunting the Phoenix because that was originally the working title for the novel, back before I discovered who or what the Phoenix would turn out to be. (There were a lot of candidates.) When I did make that discovery, it seemed obviously wrong to hunt such a creature, so I changed the present participle.

All the work was done by Marianne, save for an introduction which I wrote so my artist friends would not think I had completely lost my mind.

Here's the official website description:

Hunting the Phoenix by Michael Swanwick. 6 1/2" by 4". Bound in archival board wrappers covered with hand-dyed rice paper, with a stab binding ornamented with a single aventurine bead. The contents include a text introduction by Michael Swanwick, and seventeen color illustrations, also by Swanwick, created originally on the iPad, as part of early planning for the novel, "Chasing the Phoenix". Illustrations include many of the major characters, and several incidents from the book.
Limited to 30 numbered copies, signed by the author, with 27 available for sale. $30 each, including shipping.

You can find the Dragonstairs Press site here.

One third of the stab books, incidentally, sold out in the first day.

Above top: One of several covers. Above bottom: Demons.


Monday, May 4, 2015

Visiting Science Fiction World


The highlight of my stay in Chengdu was revisiting the Science Fiction World offices on April 7.  SFWorld is the largest-circulation science fiction magazine in existence -- and also a publishing house of Chinese and translated science fiction novels including works by (ahem) me. My long association with Science Fiction World is one of the great satisfactions of my life.

After a tour of the offices -- ever the editor, Ellen Datlow was most impressed by the fact that, it being shipping day, there were cartons of books piled high everywhere, ready to go out to bookstores -- we were taken by editors Emily Wan and Fay Jing on a tour of the ancient town of Anren, including Liu’s Manor Museum and the Anren Jianchuan Museum Cluster.

The most heartwarming moment in all our time spent in China came when we were walking from the Flying Tigers Museum to the Modern Ceramics Museum and our paths crossed with a class of very young students -- kindergarteners, I think.  Seeing Westerners in an area of China where we are a rarity, they all burst into huge smiles and waved excitedly and cried, "Hello! Hello! Hello!"  Then, when they had passed us, they joyfully cried, "Goodbye! Goodbye! Goodbye!"  Their teachers were smiling too, happy at this proof that the English they taught was being put to good use.

In the evening, several of the editors took us to the Laomatou Hot Pot Restaurant for the kind of delicious feast that Sichuan Province is world-famous for.  There were, in the course of the evening, short impromptu speeches and toasts.  But mostly we enjoyed good company, good conversation, and good feeling.

As I said, that day was the highlight of my stay.  Better than the pandas?  Better than Du Fu's cottage?  I can't speak for the others, but for me -- yes.

The photograph above was taken that evening.  From left to right:   Deputy Editor-in-Chief Yang Feng, me, Jing Yanfei (Fay), John Berry, Eileen Gunn, Wan Jie (Emily), and Editor-in-Chief Yao Haijun.

Above: Photo by Ellen Datlow and used by her kind permission.